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The Mount Rushmore State™

South Dakota is located in the Midwestern region of the United States. It is named after the Lakota and Dakota (Sioux) American Indian tribes. South Dakota was admitted to the Union on November 2, 1889. (North Dakota was admitted simultaneously.)

Located in the north-central United States, South Dakota is bisected by the Missouri River, dividing the state into two socially and economically distinct halves, known to residents as "West River" and "East River." In the southwestern portion of the state rise the Black Hills, a group of low, pine-covered mountains. A region of great religious importance to local American Indians as well as a major draw for the state tourism industry, the Black Hills are also the location of Mt. Rushmore, probably the best-known location in the state and a widely-used symbol of South Dakota.

Historically dominated by an agricultural economy and a rural lifestyle, South Dakota has recently sought to diversify its economy in an effort to attract and retain residents. The state is still largely rural, though, with one of the lowest population densities in the United States. The centrally-located city of Pierre serves as the state capital, and Sioux Falls, with 150,000 people, is the largest city in the state.

South Dakota has a continental climate with four very distinct seasons ranging from typically very cold winters and hot summers. During the summers, the average high temperature throughout the state is close to 90 °F for the high temperature, although it often cools down to close to 60 °F at night. It is not unusual for South Dakota to have severe hot, dry spells in the summer with the temperature climbing above 100 °F for the high temperature for days or weeks at a time. Winters are cold with high temperatures in January averaging below freezing and low temperatures averaging below 10 °F in most of the state.

The precipitation of the state ranges from semi-arid, in the northwestern part of the state (around 15 inches of annual precipitation) to semi-humid around the southeast portion of the state (around 25 inches of annual precipitation), although a small area centered around Lawrence County has the highest precipitation at nearly 30 inches per annum.

South Dakota summers bring frequent thunderstorms which can be severe with high winds, thunder, and hail. The eastern part of the state is often considered part of tornado alley, and South Dakota experiences an average of 23 tornadoes per year. Winters are somewhat more stable, although severe weather in the form of blizzards and ice storms can occur during the season.

South Dakota contains several sites that are protected by the National Park Service. Two national parks have been established in South Dakota, both of which are located in the southwestern part of the state. Badlands National Park was created in 1978. The park features a highly eroded, brightly-colored landscape surrounded by semi-arid grasslands. Wind Cave National Park, established in 1903 in the Black Hills, contains an extensive cave network as well as a large herd of bison. Mount Rushmore National Memorial in the Black Hills was established in 1925. The well-known attraction features a mountain carved by sculptor Gutzon Borglum to resemble four former U.S. presidents. Other areas managed by the National Park Service include Jewel Cave National Monument near Custer, the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail, the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, which features a decommissioned nuclear missile silo, and the Missouri National Recreational River.

South Dakota is home to the largest naturally heated indoor swimming pool in the world. Evans Plunge, heated from natural mineral springs, is in Hot Springs.

The largest and most complete fossil of Tyrannosaurus rex ever found was uncovered near Faith in 1990. Named "Sue," the remains are over 90% complete and are currently on display at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago.

The 1990 movie Dances with Wolves directed by and starring Kevin Costner as Lieutenant John Dunbar was filmed entirely in South Dakota.

Three US Navy ships have been named USS South Dakota in honor of the state.

Five of South Dakota's counties lie entirely within Indian reservations. They are: Corson, Dewey, Shannon, Todd, and Ziebach.

Pierre is the second-smallest (in terms of population) state capital; only Montpelier, Vermont, has fewer people.

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Photos courtesy of South Dakota Office of Tourism

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